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Interview: Troubies' Rick Batalla's Being Himself & Always Having Fun While SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN

Troubies’ Holidaze show SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO MOTOWN will open at the Garry Marshall Theatre November 23, 2021

Interview: Troubies' Rick Batalla's Being Himself & Always Having Fun While SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN

The Troubies' Holidaze show SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN will open at the Garry Marshall Theatre November 23, 2021. Troubies' artistic director Matt Walker directs the talented cast of veteran Troubies with some Noubies. A hilarious mainstay of many a Troubie production Rick Batalla took some time from his daily antics to fill me in on some behind-the-scenes of his history with the Troubadour Theater Company.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Rick!

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN will be the Troubies' first production back at the Garry Marshall post-pandemic. The Troubies have a 23-year relationship with The Garry Marshall (formerly the Falcon Theatre). Matt has talked about the influence Garry Marshall had on him and the Troubies. What words of wisdom did you take away from the late and great Garry Marshall?

Garry once told me that in order for something to be truly funny you have to find the honesty in it, or that could've been my mother. Truth is my mother and Garry were very similar, only my mother looked better in an evening gown, but it was close. My admiration for Garry is boundless and I miss him very much. I can't believe I ever got to meet him, let alone work with him. I will always cherish the many talks we had over the years that I was lucky enough to be in his universe. And that's the truth.

How many holidaze shows does the Troubies have in their arsenal? Besides SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN, I know of THE PRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS and LITTLE DRUMMER BOWIE.

We have so many, like FROSTY THE SNOW-MANILOW which is the story of Frosty The Snowman set to the music of Barry Manilow, and A CHRISTMAS CAROL KING, which is A Christmas Carol set to the music of Carol King, and A BARRY WHITE CHRISTMAS, which is the story of White Christmas set to the music of Barry White. I could go on and on... what's that? I have been going on and on? OK. I'll stop. But there's a lot.

When was the last time the Troubies performed SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN?

The last time we did it was in 2015. I played Special Transport & Delivery, STD for short. This time around I'll be playing a different character, in fact we are all switching up roles making it new for not only ourselves, but for all of the people who come and see it. And we have a lot of wonderful new Troubies, or Noubies as they are sometimes referred to, who are incredibly talented and I'm sure our fans are gonna love.

What would be your three-line pitch of SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN?

Interview: Troubies' Rick Batalla's Being Himself & Always Having Fun While SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN Live Theater is back and The Troubies' SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN is coming to The Garry Marshall Theatre. The Classic Christmas TV show from 1970 is mashed-up with the number hits of Motown creating a show that will surely have you Dancing In The Streets. But watch out for cars and stuff. How many lines is that? I never learned to count.

I saw Terron Brooks in his own holidaze concert HOLIDAZE HARMONY for Garry Marshall last year. Is that when you became aware of your latest Kris Kringle?

I didn't get a chance to see that show last year. We were doing our online WINTER LOCKDOWN PARTY around that time so I guess I can say that our streams never crossed. The first time I met Terron, and all the other Noubies, was at the first table read. He is great, so is Malynda (Hale), and Tiffany (Daniels). I can't wait for you all to see them and for them to see all of our fans.

As a founding member of Troubadour Theatre Company (back in 1995), how much say do you have in creative decisions with your artistic director Matt Walker?

Every decision goes through me. I've been running this thing since 1995, but due to a little problem with the Federal Government I chose to take a backseat so as not to call attention to myself. Umm, disregard any of the previous statement. I was never here.

Was the Troubies' production of LIZASTRATA at Getty Villa, the first-time since the lockdown you performed live?

No. I was performing three times a week at home for my wife and kids. Mainly a musical set on the accordion, with a talk back afterwards. But LIZASTRATA was my first live show where the audience that didn't throw stuff at me, well...sharp stuff.

How was everyone feeling that first night?

My eyes are tearing up as I write this remembering how we gathered in the hall way outside the dressing rooms before that first night. We all cried. We cried every night. It meant so much to each of us. I've known how lucky I am to be this doing for a long time now, but after what we've all been through the last year and half, it made me appreciate it even more. Wow, now I'm really crying.

As the salty Athenian wife Myrrhine & Harold the Herald, you managed to steal scenes from your fellow talented Troubies. How much leeway do you have to depart from the script?

I have A LOT of leeway, but it's a drug. And if you use that leeway too much, you'll find yourself in alley doing things you didn't think you'd be doing for another shot of leeway. So, you gotta be careful. You still have to serve the script, and move the story and stay on time, and stay true to what is happening.

What advice would you give to a prospective Troubie-wanna-be?

It's funny you ask this because I was recently asked this by a college student after a talkback for one of our shows and I told her "Be Ready For Anything," and after I thought about it I was like "Wow, could I be anymore clichè?" Why didn't I just say, "Have Fun" or "Just Be Yourself" sweet lordt! The Troubie-verse is unique. It has been from the beginning, and I don't know why. It is a family with all the function, and dysfunction that a family has. But above all we respect each other, and what we are doing. So for a Noubie coming in, to know that, would go a long way. And they should just be ready for anything, have fun and be themselves! Crap... I did it again, didn't I?

Interview: Troubies' Rick Batalla's Being Himself & Always Having Fun While SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN Out of all your Troubies' performances, can you name your very favorite one? And why?

My favorite of all time was ROMEO HALL AND JULIET OATES, and there are two reasons. First because I actually LOVE Hall and Oates. I got to play Romeo Hall, although I looked like more like John Oates, I had the afro and the big mustache that he had. The second reason I love it is because the balcony scene that I did with Juliet, was never really rehearsed. We just learned it, I think we ran it twice and then the next time we did it was in front of a sold-out crowd at The John Anson Ford Theater. Matt somehow knew that we didn't need to rehearse it, he trusted us to know it and do what we do. And it was Epic!

Is there still a Troubies role you haven't played that you would love to inhabit?

That's easy, Winter Warlock! I mean who hasn't dreamed of playing that? But there would have to be way I could do it sitting in a chair because I'm afraid of heights.

What else is in the near future for Rick Batalla?

Well, in the very near future I'll be watching instructional videos on how to correctly wear Lederhosen, (come see the show and you'll know what I'm talking about). Besides that, I'm in the new biopic from Aaron Sorkin Being The Ricardos starring Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball coming out in December, and the Troubies are getting ready for our next show which I'm sure we'll be announcing soon. But enough about the future, let's talk about the now! Get your tickets today for the Troubies' SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN at the Garry Marshall Theatre. Can't wait to see you all there!

Thank you again, Rick! I look forward to grooving and laughing at your SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN.

Thank you, Gil! Let's get this party started! Boogedy Ha!

For tickets to the live performances of SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN through December 24, 2021; log onto www.garrymarshalltheatre.org

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From This Author - Gil Kaan

      Gil Kaan, a former Managing Editor of the now-defunct Genre magazine, has had the privilege of photographing and interviewing some major divas of film, television, and stage in... (read more about this author)


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